Complaints to the UK's Occupational Pensions Advisory Service have soared to record levels.
Complaints last year rose 12.9pc to 36,322 in the year ending March 2001 – the largest annual case load in OPAS's 18-year history.
Its latest report – Helping people through the pensions maze: a review of OPAS cases 2000-01 – describes the industry as a maze with “a labyrinth of rules and regulations”, with:
• Sloppy administration• Rigid and inflexible final salary schemes• Bad communication• Increasing regularity complexity
OPAS – which advises individuals who have problems with their occupational pension schemes – also attacked the Inland Revenue for the three sets of limits it applies to final salary schemes, benefits rules and inconsistency in occupational and personal pension tax rules.
It was also unhappy with the internal dispute resolution procedure for occupational pension schemes, claiming it needed to be reformed.
OPAS chief executive Malcolm McLean said: “Over the years successive governments have failed to recognise the increasing problem of complexity and every time they introduce new legislation it complicates things further as it is another set of rules and regulations people have to know about.”
OPAS also said the number of cases where it advised individuals to take their grievances to the pensions ombudsman had also risen sharply – by 35pc to 339 cases compared to 251 over the same period to March 2000.
In addition, 465 other people chose independently to ask the pensions ombudsman to investigate their complaint – up from 340 last year.
OPAS chairman Peter White said: “As the report reveals, year-on-year growth in the number of people we help continues to gather pace. The pensions system becomes ever more complex while the instructions for negotiating a way through it improve ... slowly.”
However, the report said there were some hopeful signs such as the introduction of stakeholder pensions – which were simple and easy to understand – and an Inland Revenue review into occupational pension scheme laws and procedures which will report back in February 2003.
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